Darren Turner finished yesterday’s ‘6 Hours of COTA’ in fifth position after a strong drive in sweltering weather conditions at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas.
For the sixth round of the FIA World Endurance Championship Turner was partnered with Brazilian racer, Fernando Rees, as his usual team-mate Richie Stanaway had clashing race commitments.
Turner and Rees qualified the #97 Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTE, which was running in a new livery at COTA, in fifth position.
“It was all very close in qualifying, which is done on an aggregate between the two drivers,” said Turner. “Fernando’s run was half a second off Marco’s but still a strong effort when you consider the fact that we lost a lot of track time in Free Practice. This was his first time back in the car since Le Mans so any loss of practice time is going to have a knock-on effect. My time was on par with the guys in the #95 Aston Martin and on aggregate we were fifth.”
Turner was behind the wheel for the start of the race, which got underway at 17:00hrs with track temperatures soaring to almost 50 degrees in the Texan sunshine. He made a good getaway and held position, then spent the next hour hunting down his former team-mate Stefan Mücke who was running in fourth place in the Ford GT and being closely tailed by Ferrari’s Gianmaria Bruni. With nobody giving an inch it was a fantastic opening battle.
“I had a good start and managed to pass Bruni on the opening lap,” said Turner. “The biggest battle we had though was with the cockpit temperatures. I’ve not had a race that hot for a long time and even during a single stint it was a real battle to keep your concentration and level of performance. That said, I was happy with my first run.”
After his opening stint, Turner handed the Aston Martin over to Rees in third place. The duo pushed hard as the race ran into the night, with the temperatures finally dropping a few degrees as the sun went down.
The #97 Aston Martin was delayed when it pitted during a Full Course Yellow later on in the race and lost track position, dropping to fifth. With the added handicap of a technical issue it was a hard race for Turner.
“From mid way we were having a small issue with a wheel speed sensor so we had to turn off the traction control,” he said. “At a circuit like COTA you rely on that for performance and for managing tyre wear. We really had to be mindful of looking after our rear tyres from then on.”
A fifth place finish awarded 10 vital championship points, which when added to the victory points for the #95 Aston Martin keep the team riding high at the top of the GT manufacturer’s championship standings with just three events remaining.
“We had the potential to be on the podium but it was just one of those races where it didn’t all go our way,” said Turner. “Although we didn’t have the best weekend in #97 it was a fantastic weekend for Aston Martin Racing with a win in GTE Pro and a win in GTE Am. We’ve got a good lead so we need to keep pushing hard as we go into the final races of the season.”